Hiring? (Have them work for free first)

Years ago, my organization hired a senior safety professional. On paper, he was perfect. Progressive experience across multiple industries, a graduate degree, the right certifications, and solid references.

It was one of the worst hiring decisions we’d made.

The guy had zero drive and required constant supervision. He wouldn’t make a decision. He spent much of his time at work looking for other open jobs in the organization. He hated Mondays, celebrated Wednesdays, and cheered for Fridays.

He’s now moved on, most likely sitting in another nameless cubicle, building progressive experience and references who cannot wait to push him farther up (and out).

In hiring military professionals to become future safety leaders, for six years we’ve had a policy of a 10-day assessment. During the assessment, the interviewee works in the local safety office, where they deliver safety presentations, investigate injuries, and research regulations. Afterwards, the safety manager writes up a recommendation and a summary of the assessment. I review the interviewee’s package, including their annual performance reviews, references, and the safety manager’s letter.

What’s the best indicator of future performance in safety? It’s not their annual reviews, it’s not their references…it’s the 10 days where they worked for free. Did they show initiative? Could they find their way through regulations? Did they persist when it became difficult? Could they speak in public?

If we had the 10-day assessment policy when we hired the senior safety professional, I guarantee we’d have made a different decision. You cannot hide for 10 days.

Think of your hiring process. Maybe you can’t do 10 days. But can you put them in situations similar to their work? Can you test them on the most important areas of the job? Could you get them out of the interview room and get them into a situation with people? Can you put them on a short-term contract and better assess results?


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